Why Can't You Feed The Homeless in Fort Lauderdale?

November 11th 2014

Adam Rotstein

In the kind of story that seems like it was literally created for Stephen Colbert to laud ironically, the Fort Lauderdale police department got some bad PR this week when they reportedly arrested a 90-year-old man for attempting to feed the homeless. If this sounds a bit ridiculous, it's because it is. Just two days after passing an ordinance on October 29th that prohibitted such an act, law enforcement officials arrested nonagenerian Arnold Abbott and two pastors for serving a meal outside. Check out Colbert's take, which comically likens feeding the homeless to selling drugs to addicts on the street. On second thought, aren't some drug related arrests just as ridiculous

A bit more background: Arnold Abbott has been an advocate for the homeless throughout his exceptionally long life and apparently has not backed down even after he and the pastors were fined $500. They potentially face up to 60 days in jail. The rest of us are left scratching our heads about why this expression of altruism is illegal. Apparently, this ordinance is not an isolated measure taken by the city of Fort Lauderdale. In April, the city made it illegal for homeless people to have possessions (yes, you read that correctly) in public. That means that law enforcement officials are techincally allowed to confiscate any personal possession (ie blankets, water coolers, pillows, etc) provided they have given 24 hours notice. In September, it became illegal to sleep in public

It is clear that the city is concerned about the effect homelessness will have on tourism and nearby businesses. But preventing charities from feeding the homeless doesn't seem like the best response. According to the census from last year, there are 2,810 homeless individuals and families in the greater Ft. Lauderdale area. Doesn't it seem like giving people the sustenance they need to get back on their feet would positively affect the problem? If both parties here have the same goal in mind (to eradicate homelessness) then we definitely need to start thinking and working together to solve this problem-- just some food for thought. Don't arrest me.